UPDATES & ANALYSIS

2.04

Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in a police-shooting case in an evening session Feb. 5

by Rox Laird | February 4, 2019

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear oral argument Feb. 5 in an interlocutory appeal in a civil suit brought by a Cedar Rapids man who was shot by a Cedar Rapids police officer during a 2016 traffic stop, which left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Oral argument in Mitchell v. City of Cedar Rapids, will be held in an evening session beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Supreme Court Chambers at the Judicial Branch Building as part of the Court’s effort to make oral arguments accessible to the general public. The argument also will be livestreamed on the Judicial Branch website (www.iowacourts.gov).

Plaintiff-appellee Jerime Mitchell sued the City of Cedar Rapids and Police Officer Lucas Jones claiming, among other things, negligence and assault and battery. The city and Jones sought an order from the court protecting certain documents produced during discovery – including “peace officers’ investigative reports” – from public disclosure.

Linn County District Judge Patrick Grady denied the defendants’ motion for a protective order as applied to police investigative reports generated within 96 hours of the Mitchell shooting, saying those documents are not confidential under Iowa’s Open Records Act.

“[T]his Court finds that the public’s right to know greatly outweighs law enforcement and the party’s right to privacy for an incident that happened one year ago, has already been fully investigated internally by the police and has already been through the grand jury process with no charges brought against the officer,” Judge Grady wrote. “The alleged facts of the incident have been the subject of wide media coverage and broad public discussion. Public disclosure of these reports in a county of over 200,000 people may enhance the public discussion but should not jeopardize any party’s right to a fair trial.”

The city and Jones appeal the District Court order, arguing that peace officers’ investigative reports are, in fact, confidential records under Iowa’s Open Records Act, and that the judge incorrectly applied a balancing test in denying the protective order.

At the heart of this appeal are two Iowa Supreme Court decisions dealing with public disclosure of government records.

In Hawk Eye v. Jackson (1994), the Supreme Court applied a three-part balancing test in determining whether government records are subject to disclosure: “(1) a public officer is being examined; (2) the communication was made in official confidence; and (3) the public interest would suffer by disclosure.”

In ACLU v. Atlantic Community School District (2012), the Court ruled that a balancing test is required only when public record is not clearly exempted by the Open Records Act.

In the Cedar Rapids case, the defendants-appellants argue that the Iowa Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have ruled that peace officers’ investigative reports are categorically confidential, thus no balancing test is required.

Mitchell disagrees, saying that in enacting the Open Records Act to ensure government transparency, the Legislature intended that the disclosure requirement be broadly interpreted but that the exemptions to disclosure be narrowly interpreted. He argues that the balancing test established by the Court in Hawk Eye is appropriate in this case.

Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the briefs in this appeal.

SHARE

Tags: , ,

FEATURED POSTS

APPELLATE CALENDAR

Events Calendar

« November 2019 » loading...
M T W T F S S
28
29
30
31
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
1
Mon 18

Iowa Supreme Court Oral Argument

November 18 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Mon 18
Mon 18
Mon 18
Mon 18

Sladeck v.Employment Appeal Board, Case No. 18-0981

November 18 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
  • Iowa Supreme Court Oral Arguments
  • Iowa Supreme Court Opinion and/or Further Review Conference
  • Iowa Court of Appeals Oral Arguments
  • Holidays

EDITORIAL TEAM

ABOUT

On Brief: Iowa’s Appellate Blog is devoted to appellate litigation with a focus on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

RELATED BLOGS

Related Links

ARCHIVES